Retinal Nerve Fiber Loss Linked to Disability in Multiple Sclerosis

Reductions in thickness significantly associated with physical, cognitive disability

FRIDAY, Oct. 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Reduction in peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (pRNFL) thickness is significantly associated with physical and cognitive disability in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study published in the November issue of Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.

Ulrika Birkeldh, from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, and colleagues evaluated the association of pRNFL thickness (measured with optical coherence tomography [OCT]) with physical disability and cognitive impairment in 465 MS patients and 168 healthy controls.

The researchers found that the average pRNFL, inferior pRNFL, and temporal pRNFL thicknesses were significantly associated with both physical disability (−1.0 µm, −1.2 µm, and −1.2 µm, respectively) and cognitive function (0.1 µm, 0.2 µm, and 0.2 µm, respectively). Compared with healthy controls, a significant thickness loss was seen in the average pRNFL and in all quadrants except for the superior quadrant of primary progressive MS. Compared with healthy controls, the greatest reduction was seen in the temporal pRNFL of primary progressive MS eyes (−15.8 µm).

"In conclusion, pRNFL thickness reduction in MS is significantly associated with physical and cognitive disability and OCT measurements are useful for axonal loss," the authors write. "We suggest the use of temporal pRNFL thickness as a more sensitive outcome as [opposed] to the average pRNFL thickness."

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